Thursday, September 23, 2010

12 Dangers Airport Security Still Doesn’t Check For

We all know what can happen when flights go wrong, making airport security a must. But as security rules and regulations change, so to do the individuals and groups that try to circumvent them. With liquids, shoes, and even underwear being used in the attempt to destroy the lives of civilians, it can be confusing as to what is and is not allowed on a national or international flight.

To help, we have gathered twelve dangers airport security still doesn’t check for. They include items that should be banned but are still allowed through, items that shouldn’t be allowed but are, and everything in between that will have you rethinking that next airport security fee.

1. An Actual Gun
Run all the bans you like, apparently weapons are still making it through airport security. In January of 2010 a flight attendant was able to sneak an actual hand gun through the usual processes. Although guns are allowed as checked baggage, this one made it onto the flight and she was eventually charged. It is still unclear what her purpose was in taking a handgun onto a plane.

2. Plastic Knife
As we have all seen in prison movies, knives made out of plastic can be just as dangerous as the real thing. Travel Q and A’s has a simple list of things you can and cannot bring on an airplane, and it seems a plastic knife is allowed. Whether or not it can be a standard picnic variety plastic knife or an actual “shiv” is still unclear.

3. Explosives
We’ve all heard of the Christmas Day or Panty Bomber who tried to detonate a bomb during the last leg of a flight to the U.S. But did you ever wonder how airport security didn’t check for or find the explosive devices he was carrying? Still a mum with the media. They do confirm however that Abdulmutallab passed a security check in Amsterdam that included a hand baggage scan and metal detector. Whatever the cause, he was still able to board a flight headed for the United States with a highly explosive chemical.

4. Dynamite
You read that correctly. According to this entry from “USA Today,” 32 of the nation’s largest airports failed to detect fake weapons including guns, bombs, and even dynamite. Undercover agents who went to no great lengths to conceal their contraband sailed right through airport security. In 25 to 50 percent of the tests, screeners failed to detect potentially fatal items. Even after scoring positive hits on metal detectors, screeners failed to catch the contraband.

5. What About Marshals?
Although the Fed does hire marshals to provide a last line of defense against terrorists on planes, how effective are they? According to this article, many have taken naps during the job, literally putting them asleep at the switch. Others have tested positive for alcohol or drugs on duty or have even lost their weapons in a Barney Fife-like attempt to maintain order. Some federal marshals have also provided falsified information.

6. Strollers
Not the kind you push a baby in but the kind who just stroll on through airport security. In this entry from Schneier on Security, he tells the true story of a man who was pulled aside for an extra security check and just strolled on through anyway. After realizing their error, TSA wisely or unwisely - depending on your viewpoint - shut down the entire terminal in LaGuardia airport. It turned out to be a false positive on the man, but the security expert blogs that the delays probably rippled for days.

7. Lazy Employees
Who among us hasn’t taken a second to browse the internet or get on Facebook during work hours? But in contrast, how many of us have the lives of a whole airplane full of passengers in our hands, not to mention the buildings these planes may or may not fly into? This blog has an actual photograph of an airport security worker playing solitaire on company time with a line of passengers waiting.

8. But Wait, There’s More!
What’s worse than playing solitaire on the job? A sure fire answer is sleeping on the job. In this YouTube video, an official TSA agent working for Amtrak in Chicago is literally filmed sleeping on the job. The fact that he tried to hide it behind sunglasses adds a bit a humor to the outrage.

9. But a Bonus is in Order
Despite all the failures of airport security and everyone involved in it, employees of the Transportation Security Administration can still expect bonuses on par with all the other employees of the government. According to this article from Government Executive, 76 percent of employees under the agency’s Performance Accountability and Standards System will receive a pay increase, bonuses, or both. Keep in mind that this is during a time when unemployment is up, pay is down, and taxes on everything from soda to tanning beds are in the works. This announcement also came at about the same time of the Christmas Day bombing, which was allowed by airport security but stopped by private citizens.

10. Explosives
Although no airport in the world allows explosives, it still happens. In the most famous case, Richard Reid would attempt to light an explosive in December 2001. He tried to light the fuse in his shoe to the explosive more than one time before being subdued by passengers and crew. Again it is unclear how Reid managed to sneak explosives onto an airplane, but we have him to thank for being forced to take off shoes for airport security.

11. Cigarettes
Although TSA prohibits any flammable devices, cigarettes are still allowed. Even matchbooks and lighters meeting a certain size and flammability are also allowed. However, few airlines allow you to light a cigarette inside or outside the plane, no matter how long the flight is.

12. But Toys Are Still Banned
In this blog entry, a child recounts how what was clearly a toy gun was able to bring airport security to a halt. Bonus points for explaining the entire ordeal with the honesty of a child. Also good if you are a fan of the “Transformers.”

Be wary that the twelve dangers airport security still doesn’t check for is only as up to date as the most current TSA regulations. To see the most current list click here for updates. The TSA lists what you can take as a carry on and/or checked baggage. There is also a blog entry from Gadling with useful suggestions on items you should bring with you on a flight.
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